More than 70% of young people exposed to online hate and violence: Survey

Statistics Canada has just released a new analysis on exposure to cyber violence, hate, and dis/misinformation among young people, including reported harassment and targeting.

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

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A new analysis released by Statistics Canada has found that a majority of Canadian youth have been exposed to violent and hateful content online, making up one quarter of  “cyberaggression” reported to the police. Young people also had much higher instances of reporting seeing suspected false or misleading information. 

Statistics Canada has just released a new analysis on exposure to cyber violence, hate, and dis/misinformation among young people, using data from four previous surveys: the Canadian Social Survey, the Canadian Internet Use Survey (CIUS), the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS) and the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey.

On Monday, the Liberal government introduced a long-promised and controversial online harms bill that seeks to address issues including the sharing of child sexual abuse and exploitation material, material that incites extremist violence, hate crimes, and online hate.

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According to data from the CIUS survey in 2022, 84 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 24 saw information online they “suspected to be false.” The total is 14 per cent over the national average of 70 per cent. 

“Not only were young people more often exposed to misinformation, but they were also more likely to see content that could incite hate or violence,” StatCan said in its release. “This type of content can consist of, but is not limited to, terrorist content or violence toward ethnic groups.” 

The analysis reports “no differences” in the volume of exposure to online hate by gender or racialized group among Canadians aged 15 to 24, however, online hate crimes targeting “Black people and those motivated by a person's sexual orientation were the most common types of cyber-related hate crimes reported to police, representing 17 per cent each. These were followed by hate crimes targeting the Jewish population (12 per cent).”

In 2022, a total of 71 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 to 24 reported seeing online content that may incite hate or violence. This figure was over 20 per cent higher than the national average of 49 per cent.

Canadians from the same age group with a disability were also two and a half times more likely to see content that might incite hate every day compared to those without at 29 per cent and 11 per cent respectively. 

The overall number of “cyber-related hate crimes” has increased from 2018 to 2022 for all Canadians, regardless of age. In 2018 and 2019, 92 incidents were reported and 219 incidents in 2022. During this period, 82 per cent of reports were violent, with uttering threats being the most common at 36 per cent, and indecent or harassing communications at second with 29 per cent. 

The surveys also report that public incitement of hatred made up more than half (52 per cent) of the reported “non-violent” incidents.

“Not all cyber-related hate crimes are reported to the police,” the analysis reads. “This can be attributed in part to victims choosing not to, or being unable to tell authorities (e.g., fear of reprisal, fear of not being believed or taken seriously, fear of insufficient police response, being restricted or unable to access or communicate with authorities).”

The report also notes that while young women and girls are more often the target of online bullying and abuse, the data shows that men and boys (53 per cent) were “slightly more likely than girls and women (47 per cent) to be the victims of police-reported cyber-related hate crimes.” There is an exception “in the teen years and early adulthood,” when young women make up a larger amount of police-reported cyber hate crime victims when compared to young men.

In regards to perpetrators, those accused of cyber-related hate crimes reported to police were overwhelmingly male. The analysis found that 87 per cent of people “charged with or suspected” of cyber-related hate crimes were men. The average age for perpetrators was 27 years for both males and females, though skewed much younger. A total of 35 per cent of people accused of cyber-related hate crime were 12 to 17 and 25 per cent aged 18 to 34.

“Although men and women aged 15 to 24 are equally likely to see content that may incite hate or violence, from 2018 to 2022, boys aged 12 to 17 were charged or accused in 30 per cent of cyber-related hate crimes, while girls of the same age accounted for 5 per cent of all those accused or charged,” StatsCan specified. 

Women and girls did make up a larger portion of victims when it came to sexual exploitation or harassment. Data from the 2018 SSPPS says that among people aged 15 to 24, females accounted for 11 per cent of reported online harms of this kind. Young men in the same age bracket made up three per cent of reports. 

The rate of “exposure to intimate images or videos that may have been shared without the person's consent” was determined to be the same for young men and women.

Women between 15 and 24 also receive unsolicited sexually suggestive or explicit images or messages at a significantly higher rate than men. At 25 per cent, they were two and a half times more likely than men (10 per cent) to receive the unsolicited images. 

“Bullying and harassment are not confined to the internet—young people who were victims of cyber aggression were also more likely to have experienced other forms of victimization, such as stalking and physical or sexual assault.”

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